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Speed boost for Ubuntu

MY Linux desktop PC (dual core 3GHz Pentium D and 4GB RAM) has been showing its age recently so I looked online for ways to bring back some of its old snap.

I had recently upgraded to Ubuntu 16.04 and found, for the most part, that my old PC was still capable of running it quite well. But I noticed that the flashy animation and 3D effects were slowing down some applications, making them feel sluggish. Much as I like my eye candy, I like a smooth-running PC better, so I decided to ditch the animations.

To do this, I used Classic GNOME Flashback, a 2D desktop environment that’s clean and easy to use. The quickest way to install it is to open a terminal (Ctrl-Alt-T) and type these two commands (followed by Enter):
 

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install gnome-session-flashback
 

You will need to type in your log-in password at the first command.

Once the program is installed, log out. On the new login screen, click the small white Ubuntu logo and choose GNOME Flashback Metacity from the dropdown menu, then log in. That takes you to the classic GNOME desktop minus the fancy (and resource-hungry) animations and special effects—and sans Ubuntu’s Unity interface. To make the desktop feel even more familiar (I use a Mac half the time), I use Cairo-Dock as a launcher.

To install it, fire up a terminal and type:
 

sudo apt-get update

sudo apt-get install cairo-dock
 

After running the setup for a week, I’ve found that my system feels much snappier, with no perceptible delays now when screens have to be redrawn.

Encouraged by this success, I looked for other ways to improve system performance on Ubuntu 16.04. Here are a few more things you can try:

1. Reduce the use of the hard drive as virtual memory. On old PCs with limited memory, consider changing the system’s swappiness, a variable that determines how soon Ubuntu uses the hard drive as virtual memory to store data temporarily. When the system uses the swap too much, the computer slows down.

Swappiness is a number between 0 and 100. The lower the number, the longer it takes before Ubuntu starts using the hard drive as virtual memory. The default is 60, but setting it to 10 will speed things up.

To check your current swappiness value, type this in terminal:
 

cat /proc/sys/vm/swappiness

Press Enter. The result will probably be 60. To lower the swappiness to 10, type in terminal:

sudo gedit /etc/sysctl.conf

Press Enter. Scroll to the bottom of the text file and add this line:

vm.swappiness=10

Save and close the text file then reboot your computer.
 

2. Enable write-behind caching on the hard disk. By default, Ubuntu turns this feature off, but enabling it can speed things up. To do this, use the disk utility and highlight your hard drives. Look for the little gear or horizontal lines that designate the “More Actions” menu button in the upper corner. Select “Drive Settings” to enable write caching. Reboot the system and you ought to see an improvement in how long it takes for the system to boot. There is one caveat, however: enabling write-behind caching means that if you lose power while there is data in memory that has not been written yet to the hard drive, you could suffer some data loss or corrupt files.

3. Use preload. Preload, the short name for Adpative Readahead Daeomon, enables Ubuntu to learn which applications you use most ofen so that the operating can load them in advance. Use Ubuntu’s software manager to search for “preload” and install the application. Some users have reported that their browsers open 50 percent to 75 percent faster after installing preload.

4. Use Bleachbit to clean up your hard drive. The free and open source utility BleachBit deletes unnecessary files like caches, cookies, Internet history, localizations, logs, temporary files, and broken shortcuts to free up valuable disk space. Chin Wong

Column archives and blog at: http://www.chinwong.com

Topics: Chin Wong , Speed boost for Ubuntu , Linux , Ubuntu 16.04 , GNOME Flashback , Preload , Adpative Readahead Daeomon , Bleachbit
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